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With live performances out of the picture during the lockdown, artists need support from radio now more than ever.

Pressure Increases for SABC to Support South African Artists During the Coronavirus Crisis

'Let us see local content dominating our lives especially at this time to help artists earn a living,' says South Africa's minister of sports, arts and culture.

South African minister of sports, arts and culture Nathi Mthethwa says the country's public broadcaster SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) needs to play more South African content to assist artists during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

"Local content isn't played as much as it should in South Africa," Minister Nathi Mthethwa said during a media briefing today. "Once more, as we pleaded then, we are pleading again, that let us see local content dominating our lives especially at this time to help artists earn a living. Sometime next week or the week after, we will be engaging our public broadcaster to ensure we really see this local content. It doesn't help us having needle time benefitting artists in the UK, the US when we have artists in the country starving."


When the South African government banned gatherings of more than 100 people in March, a unanimous cry followed from the country's artists whose main revenue stream—live shows—was blocked. As the number of infected people rose in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa enforced a countrywide lockdown which has been going on for close to 40 days.

As the lockdown continues, it leaves artists in a dire position as it looks like live shows won't be making a return anytime soon. Artists and fans have been urging the SABC to play more South African content on its network of radio and TV platforms, which are among the biggest in the country.

Currently, by government regulations, commercial radio stations are obliged to play 35% of South African music, while the quota for SA music on public radio stations is 60%.

When the lockdown began in April, South African musician RJ Benjamin called on radio stations to play "strictly local artists during lockdown." "SA artists need your help beyond this difficult period and you have the ability to provide some of royalty income for artists when Covid-19 subsides," the artist pleaded in a tweet in March.

Read: When Will SABC Show Some Respek for South Africa's Young Talent?

The quota for South African music on the country's radio and TV platforms has been a subject of discussion for years. In 2016, artists almost won the battle when the SABC's then COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng implemented a 90% quota for South African music. But the rapidness resulted in a blunder as the organization seemed unprepared and played old South African music to reach its own quota. This resulted in the quota being scraped as it lost the SABC millions in advertising revenue after listenership dwindled amid the chaos.

Today, artists are still singing the same song. Black Coffee, told City Press on Sunday, "As South Africa, most African countries look up to us, but the same countries are more patriotic than ours. It is quite embarrassing, to be honest."

South African artists continue to hold a very small share of the country's music industry. The 10 most streamed artists on Apple Music since the platform launched in SA in 2015 have all been international—Drake, Ed Sheeran, Post Malone, Eminem etc. Spotify is not any different—the most streamed artists, songs and albums of 2019 were all international.

South African artists have been crying foul to the government as they feel neglected during the Covid-19 crisis. The government stated it couldn't offer freelancers any relief and provided a meagre R150 million (approximately $54,000) relief fund for the country's sports, arts and culture sector.

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